by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 7 Lincolnton, NC April 10, 2005
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
There are two textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. The first is the difference between the Textus Receptus' "God was manifest..." and the Nestle/Aland 26's "He who was manifest...". The actual difference here consists of the first two letters in the Greek word for "God". The Textus Receptus has them in its text and the Nestle/Aland 26 does not. The second is the difference in the spelling of the word translated "received up". Both spellings seem to be acceptable to the grammarians, and the meaning is completely unaffected.
I. The Six Issues Involved in the Mystery of Godliness.
A. In overview:
1. God manifest by the flesh [Incarnation].
2. God justified by the Spirit [Resurrection].
3. God seen of angels.
4. God preached among the nations.
5. God believed on in the world.
6. God received up into glory.
B. In detail...
1. God manifest in the flesh. [See the notes for April 3, 2005 (051)]
2. God justified in the spirit.
a. Just as the issue was "God" made manifest by the flesh in the first statement, so the issue in this statement is that "God" was justified by the Spirit.
b. The issue of the term "justified".
1) This is the typical biblical term involved in the biblical concept of "justification".
2) In many cases, the issue of "justification" involves God's action on behalf of men: declaring them "just" as a consequence of "faith in the Justifier" Whose vicarious works are "imputed" to them because they "trust" Him.
3) In some cases, the issue of "justification" involves men's recognition of the true "rightness" of a God-accomplished thing.
4) In a few cases, the issue of "justification" involves men in their attempts to escape guilt by building a "reasonable" case for the "rightness" of the actions they have taken that have come into question.
5) Characteristically in all cases, "justification" has to do with making a case for the "rightness" of a person's actions or character.
a) The "rightness" of a thing has to do with two issues...
i. Whether, in fact, is was prompted by a genuine interest in the eternal well-being of another; and...
ii. Whether, in fact, it had the capacity to produce that well-being as an instrument of God that needed no "conversion" by God into a "good" producer [Joseph told his brothers that their behavior was meant for evil but God turned it into an instrument of good: this is an example of an action needing "conversion" by God before it can serve to produce good. These kinds of actions are not "right".]
b) The "case" that is made is generally going to be some kind of "reasonable argument".
c. The issue in Paul's statement regarding God's "justification by the Spirit" is the entire question of whether there is a "reasonable argument" to establish the "incarnation" as a true reality of God becoming flesh.
1) Anyone can claim to be "god in the flesh".
2) According to Paul in our text, the Spirit puts forth the "argument(s)" that, in Jesus' case, it was a valid claim.
a) The "major" aspect of the "argument", Paul claims, is the "resurrection from the dead": Romans 1:4. Jesus was "manifestly" the Truth-Speaker He claimed to be by means of "resurrection". This is, in a sense, the very "issue" raised by Nicodemus in John 3 when he said "...no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." He said this as a major leader of the Jews, a majority of whom had determined to accuse Jesus of doing His miracles by the power of Baalzebub. It goes without saying that in a universe of a Creator, there will be dispensations of "power" by that Creator so that the creatures can "function". It also goes without saying that in such a creation, the issue of "personality" arises within the question of whether, or not, those "dispensations of power" will be totally controlled by the Creator or will be exercised to at least some degree by the creature itself/himself. The biblical view is that God has not only extended dispensations of power, He has also given the exercise of that power over to the creatures to whom it has been given to some degree.
b) The other aspect of the "argument", Peter claimed in Acts 5:32, is that the "Spirit" is a primary "witness" Who establishes the truth of the matter in spite of man's willingness to embrace it.
d. That this is a crucial doctrine is established by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15; particularly 1 Corinthians 15:16-19.